Renaissance School Kindergarten Overview
Kindergarten at Renaissance School is a joyful, growth-filled experience for children. Mindfully created classroom spaces and activities support healthy growth and development; our loving, skilled teacher uses a combination of classroom activities and play time to gently guide each child’s academic, social and emotional growth. Students are immersed in the beauty and history of Shelburne Farms as they learn the foundational skills of reading, writing and counting as well as concepts of community and sustainability. The teacher frequently takes students outside to observe and reflect on the natural world; they draw, write in their journals and share observations and insights gained from time spent outside. Hands-on, experiential learning helps students make connections between classroom study and the real world. Students learn about and participate in the work that’s done on farms and products that farms produce, including cheese and maple syrup. They also come to understand how they can be a contributing part of the farm community by caring for the animals and respecting the farm land.
Kindergarteners produce beautiful artwork all year long, both in their classroom and with Renaissance’s talented and creative art teacher. Through a robust social/emotional curriculum, important skills such as taking turns, listening attentively, sharing and resolving conflicts peacefully are explicitly taught and continually practiced and reinforced. Kindergarten children experience tremendous growth during the year, and the Renaissance teacher skillfully supports their growth with love and compassion, readying them for their next steps in school.
Kindergarten students are immersed in a literacy-rich environment as they develop into beginning readers. Through a combination of whole-class, small group and individual instruction, students gain a solid foundation in the fundamental skills of reading and writing; they apply their new skills during daily reading and writing time. Our teacher recognizes that Kindergarten students come to school with a wide range of literacy skills, and she carefully differentiates instruction to ensure that every student is challenged on his or her level. By the end of Kindergarten, students will be able to identify and write all upper and lower case letters of the alphabet and will be able to produce the correct letter sounds for each letter. Students use phonetic writing to produce friendly letters and journal entries. Kindergarten students take great pleasure in learning to sound out words in both fiction and nonfiction books. Most importantly, the teacher helps students begin to experience the joy that reading and writing can foster.
Kindergarteners gain a strong base of mathematical thinking and skills, especially with concepts such as “more than” and “less than.” They frequently use math manipulatives to learn number sequences and beginning addition and subtraction principles. Kindergarteners learn new skills and concepts that will be revisited throughout elementary school in ever-increasing levels of challenge. They study concepts of measurement, time, money, geometry and patterns in concrete ways, using pattern blocks, play money, rulers and other math tools. Students do hands-on exploration of math, often using spaces and items on the farm to bring concepts to life. For example, students learn about measurement and time through the process of baking cookies; they may practice counting by gathering eggs from the hen house. The teacher ensures that students gain confidence in their math ability so they are ready to take on more challenging work in first grade.
Our youngest students have an ideal environment in which to learn scientific concepts and skills. Through exploration of three important farm habitats--pond, meadow and forest--they learn the essential scientific skills of observation and data-collection and analysis. Students take many trips outside all year long to search for animal tracks, identify plants and become familiar with the changes and rhythms of the seasons on the farm. The teacher nurtures a deep understanding of and appreciation for the natural world and all living creatures in it by exposing students to both the domestic farm animals and those who live in the wild. Children love to learn about the history and present day activities and products of Shelburne Farms; a visit to the farm’s maple sugaring operation is a highlight!
In Kindergarten, students are introduced to the idea of community, and they learn how everyone and everything in a community is interdependent. They begin to understand their role as individuals living in a community, and what their responsibilities are. For example, students begin to see their classroom as a community, and themselves as individuals with rights and responsibilities with that community. Students learn about celebrations and traditions within various world communities, and they explore important historical figures who contributed to their communities. They also explore the history and current operations of Shelburne Farms, and learn to create maps of places around the school and the farm.
Social, Emotional and Life Skills
Within the nurturing and safe classroom environment, Kindergarteners learn and practice many important social, emotional and life skills that will serve them well in the years to come. Students learn how to listen respectfully and express their own opinions while respecting the opinions of others. They learn how to peacefully resolve conflicts by using appropriate words to describe their feelings and thoughts. We see kindergarteners begin to manage their feelings with greater independence while expressing empathy and compassion for others. Our kindergarten students practice self-care skills such as maintaining a neat cubby, tracking their possessions, cleaning up after themselves and dressing independently. A critical skill that we teach and practice throughout elementary school is perseverance; it is gratifying to see our youngest students use positive self-talk to work through challenging problems!